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Henry Hudson (d. ca. 1611) was an English sea explorer and navigator in the early 17th century. After several voyages on behalf of English merchants to explore a prospective Northeast Passage to Indiamarker, Hudson explored the region around modern New York Citymarker while looking for a western route to Asia under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company. He explored the Hudson River – – and laid the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region.

Hudson's final expedition ranged farther north in search of the Northwest Passage, to the Orient, leading to his discovery of the Hudson Straitmarker and Hudson Baymarker. After wintering in the James Baymarker, Hudson tried to press on with his voyage in the spring of 1611, but his crew mutinied and they cast him adrift. His ultimate fate is unknown.

Life and career

Hudson, may have been born in London, Englandmarker. Little is known of his early life. He is thought to have spent many years at sea, beginning as a cabin boy and gradually working his way up to ship's captain.


In 1607, the Muscovy Company of the Kingdom of England hired Hudson to find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific coast of Asia. It was thought at the time that, because the sun shone for three months in the northern latitudes in the summer, the ice would melt and a ship could make it across the top of the world to the Spice Islands. The English were battling the Dutch for Northeast Passage routes.

Hudson sailed on the 1st of May with a crew of ten men and a boy on the 80-ton Hopewell. They reached the east coast of Greenlandmarker on June 13, coasting it until the 22nd. Here they named a headland Young's Cape, a "very high mount, like a round castle" near it Mount of God's Mercy, and land at 73° N Hold-with-Hope. On the 27th they sighted "Newland" (i.e Spitsbergenmarker), near the mouth of the great bay Hudson later simply named the Great Indraught (Isfjordenmarker). On July 13 Hudson and his crew thought they had sailed as far north as 80° 23' N, but more likely only reached 79° 23' N. The following day they entered what Hudson later in the voyage would name Whales Bay (Krossfjordenmarker and Kongsfjordenmarker), naming its northwestern point Collins Cape (Kapp Mitra) after his boatswain, William Collins. They sailed north the following two days. On the 16th they reached as far north as Hakluyt's Headland (which Thomas Edge claims Hudson named on this voyage) at 79° 49' N, thinking they saw the land continue to 82° N (Svalbardmarker's northernmost point is 80° 49' N) when really it treaded to the east. Ice being packed along the north coast they were forced to turn back south. Hudson wanted to make his return "by the north of Greenland to Davis his Streights, and so for Kingdom of England," but ice conditions would have made this impossible. The expedition returned to Tilberry Hope on the Thames on September 15.

According to Thomas Edge, "William Hudson" in 1608 discovered an island at 71° N and named it Hudson's Touches (or Tutches). However, he only could have come across it in 1607 (if he had made an illogical detour) and made no mention of it in his journal. There is also no cartographical proof of this supposed discovery. Jonas Poole and Robert Fotherby both had possession of Hudson's journal while searching for his elusive Hold-with-Hope (on the east coast of Greenland) in 1611 and 1615, respectively, but neither had any knowledge of his (later) alleged discovery of Jan Mayen, shedding further doubt on him having discovered the island. The latter actually found Jan Mayen, thinking it a new discovery and naming it Sir Thomas Smith's Island.

It has also been claimed by many authors that it was the discovery of large numbers of whales in Spitsbergen waters by Hudson during this voyage that led to several nations sending whaling expeditions to the islands. While he did indeed report seeing many whales, it wasn't his reports that led to the trade, but that by Jonas Poole in 1610 which led to the establishment of English whaling and the successful voyage of Nicholas Woodcock in 1612 that led to the establishment of Dutch, French, and Spanish whaling.

1608 to 1609

Map of Hudson's voyages to North America.
Replica of Henry Hudson's ship Halve Maen, donated in 1909 by the Dutch to the United States at the occasion of the 300 year anniversary of the discovery of what is now New York.
In 1608, Hudson made a second attempt, trying to go across the top of Russia. He made it to Novaya Zemlyamarker but was forced to turn back.

In 1609, Hudson was chosen by the Dutch East India Company to find an easterly passage to Asia. He was told to sail around the Arctic Oceanmarker north of Russia, into the Pacific and so to the Far East. Hudson could not complete his intended route due to the ice that had plagued his previous voyages, and those of many others before him. On September 6, 1609 John Colman of his crew was killed by Native Americans with arrow to his neck. On September 11, 1609 he sailed into what is now New York City. The following day Hudson began his first ride up what is now known as the Hudson River.

Having heard rumors by way of Jamestown and John Smith, he and his crew decided to try to seek out a Southwest Passage through North America. In fact, no Northwest Passage to the Pacific existed north of the Strait of Magellan and south of the Arctic until one was created by the construction of the Panama Canalmarker between 1903 and 1914. The Native Americans, who relayed the information to John Smith, were likely referring to what are known today as the Great Lakes.

Along the way, Hudson traded with several native tribes, obtaining shells, beads and furs. His voyage established Dutch claims to the region and the fur trade that prospered there. New Amsterdam in Manhattanmarker became the capital of New Netherland in 1625. On his return trip to Amsterdam, he stopped in Dartmouth, Kingdom of England and was detained by authorities there, who wanted access to his log. He managed to pass the log to the Dutch ambassador to the Kingdom of England who sent it, along with his report, to Amsterdammarker.


In 1610 Hudson managed to get backing for yet another voyage, this time under the English flag. The funding came from the Virginia Company and the British East India Company. At the helm of his new ship, the Discovery, he stayed to the north (some claim he deliberately stayed too far south on his Dutch-funded voyage), reaching Icelandmarker on May 11, the south of Greenland on June 4, and then rounding the southern tip of Greenland.

A map of Hudson's fourth voyage

Excitement was very high due to the expectation that the ship had finally found the Northwest Passage through the continent. On June 25, the explorers reached the Hudson Straitmarker at the northern tip of Labrador. Following the southern coast of the strait on August 2, the ship entered Hudson Baymarker. Hudson spent the following months mapping and exploring its eastern shores. In November however, the ship became trapped in the ice in the James Baymarker, and the crew moved ashore for the winter.


When the ice cleared in the spring of 1611, Hudson planned to continue exploring but his crew wanted to return home. Matters came to a head and the crew mutinied in June 1611. According to the mutineers, they set Hudson, his teenage son John, and six crewmen - either sick and infirm, or loyal to Hudson, adrift in a small open boat, effectively marooning them. According to Abacuk Pricket's journal, the castaways were provided with powder and shot, some pikes, an iron pot, some meal, and other miscellaneous items, as well as clothing. However, Prickett knew he and the other mutineers would be tried in England. The small boat kept pace with the Discovery for some time as the abandoned men rowed towards her but eventually Discovery's sails were let loose. Hudson was never seen again and his fate is not known. However, speculation that the crew killed Hudson has occurred.

Only eight of the thirteen mutinous crewmen survived to return to Europe, and although arrested, none was ever punished for the mutiny and Hudson's (presumably resulting) death. One theory holds that they were considered valuable as sources of information, having traveled to the New World. Perhaps for this reason they were charged with murder, of which they were acquitted, rather than mutiny, for which they most certainly would have been convicted and executed.


The Hudson River in New York and New Jersey, explored by Hudson, is named after him, as are Hudson County, New Jerseymarker, and Hudson, New Yorkmarker. In the Canadian Arctic, Hudson Baymarker and Hudson Straitmarker, also discovered by Hudson, are named after him. He also appears as a mythic character in the famous story of Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving.

See also



  • Hacquebord, Lawrens. (2004). The Jan Mayen Whaling Industry. Its Exploitation of the Greenland Right Whale and its Impact on the Marine Ecosystem. In: S. Skreslet (ed.), Jan Mayen in Scientific Focus. Amsterdam, Kluwer Academic Publishers. 229-238.
  • Purchas, S. 1625. Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes: Contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells by Englishmen and others. Volumes XIII and XIV (Reprint 1906 J. Maclehose and sons).
  • Wordie, J.M. (1922) "Jan Mayen Island", The Geographical Journal Vol 59 (3).
  • Mancall, Peter C. (2009), Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson, Basic Books

External links

  1. The following paragraph relies on Asher (1860), pp. 1-22; and Conway (1906), pp. 23-30.
  2. Observations made during this voyage were often wrong, sometimes greatly so. See Conway (1906).
  3. Purchas (1625), p. 11.
  4. "The above relation by Thomas Edge is obviously incorrect. Hudson's Christian name is wrongly given, and the year in which he visited the north coast of Spitsbergen was 1607, not 1608. Moreover, Hudson himself has given an account of the voyage and makes absolutely no mention of Hudson's Tutches. It would have been hardly possible indeed for him to visit Jan Mayen on his way home from Bear Island to the Thames." Wordie (1922), p. 182.
  5. Hacquebord (2004), p.229.
  6. Purchas (1625), pp. 35-36 and pp. 83-88.
  7. Many uncritical authors have blindly stated the above. Among them are Sandler (2008), p. 407; Umbreit (2005), p. 1; Shorto (2004), p. 21; Mulvaney (2001), p. 38; Davis et al. (1997), p. 31; Francis (1990), p. 30; Rudmose-Brown (1920), p. 312; Chisholm (Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911), p. 942; among many others.
  8. See Poole's commission from the Muscovy Company in Purchas (1625), p. 24. For Woodcock see Conway (1906), p. 53, among others.
  9. Nevius, Michelle and James, "New York's many 9/11 anniversaries: the Staten Island Peace Conference", Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City, 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2009-05-31.
  10. Shorto 2004, pg.31

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